Free your mind and the rest will follow...
Tim has been a coached athlete with Tri Training Harder for 12 months and has been working on his psychology and focus during a race - his most recent race at Outlaw Half demonstrates what a positive difference psychology can make to your racing. Here Tim recounts his race preparation and the race itself, reflecting on what went well and what could be improved for the future.
As I am someone that likes to plan and prepare, this is how I set out my race for Outlaw Half. Having spent a week in Portugal with the Tri Training Harder team and having been coached for a year, I was putting into place a lot of tips, hints and specifics to practice during this race, and it all started a few days beforehand.
Book accommodation, get driving instructions, talk to coach Sorrel, make a race plan and make a plan for the whole weekend.
Friday – Travel Day
Arrive and register, early to bed and set alarm for 04:30; 1 hour after planned ‘get up time’ for race day. I do this where I can for the few days before a race so that my body gets used to it and doesn't ask me what the hell I am doing at 3.30am on race day.
Undertake my training for the day and relax. Note to self; take something to do - resting in a hotel is boring!
Saturday – Prep Day
Get up early and practice commute to venue (10 min drive), then take advantage of the early morning and drive the route, mentally noting way point features, road surface, hazards and other things of note.
Have breakfast and then attend the race briefing at the event venue - process the information received which includes transition opening and closing times. No racking the day before so I need to adjust my race day schedule to account for this.
Whilst grazing on Jaffa Cakes and drinking electrolyte mix all day make race day timing and nutrition plan which actually starts with the race start and then working backwards to work out what time I need to wake up and eat (3.30am!)
Eat lunch, have a snooze and then check out swim course orientation once it has been set up. Although I wasn't able to get into the water at this point, I walked around the lake and looked at the main sighting points - including getting down to the level of the water to see what I would actually be able to see once I was about 6 foot closer to the floor on race day!
Don't forget your nutritional needs!
Preparation for transition came next with me collating all my clothing / equipment and packing my transition bag. I then checked over my bike and made up my drinks for the following day.
Dinner came next (all I have done all day is eat!) at 18:00 (jacket potato, beans and cheese) and then went to bed at 20:30 - to get up for 03:30 (7 hours sleep, get more if possible).
I'm still working backwards in terms of timing at this point, I need to be up at 3.30am (!) so have worked out bed time, dinner time from this.
Coach Sorrel - this is something that Tim and I have spent time talking through - planning out the day so there is a) something to do and b) things don't get forgotten and left to the last minute. Having a plan makes the day (and pre-race nerves!) much more manageable
Sunday - Race Day
Not ideal race breakfast!
03:30 - wake up and have nervous trip to the bathroom :)
Breakfast - porridge as planned
Sun spray on. Get dressed and put everything else in combination of rucksack and smaller transition bag – baggage is not very ‘sorted’.
And then this is when things start to go a little awry.......drive to venue and park at campsite as planned, I planed to put my bike in transition and return to van/campsite to change into wet suit and meet friends.
This is what actually happened:
Rack bike and transition stuff – return to van and have a double espresso as planned and realise have forgotten to leave my trainers in transition, so I return transition and then go back to the van wearing other shoes. Take my track suit off – realise have left bike top on and it should be in transition…
*insert suitable expletive here
OK – revise plan – forget linking with other peoples plans - back to transition with everything
05:58 Get in 2 mins before closing time of 06:00 – deposit bike top. 6am - annnddddd relax.
Get wetsuit on – borrow baby oil to stop chafing (note to self – remember baby oil)
Try goggles with hat – realise sun protection is still greasy and goggles not sealing – wash off as much as poss with lake water – think what happens if goggles leak ? – think deal with it, too late to change now (note to self: goggles didn’t leak).
Fasten bag to a fence thing – then put phone in someone elses identical bag that isn’t fastened to said fence thing – realise immediately – retrieve phone and put in own bag (note to self – Blue Seventy bags are all the same unless fastened to a fence thing – which is why I fastened bag to fence thing in the first place – further note to self: ‘get a grip’) - by now it's 6:30am. Time to get in the water.
Coach Sorrel - Now this is where things would normally have culminated in Tim being in a bad mood - things have gone wrong and upset his plan....but he dealt with each 'challenge' calmly and in an organised way. We've used the '
scenario before and spoken about it before and after other races. Tim has used it well with his goggles and taken a moment to catch his thoughts and tell himself to get a grip. By now he is in a MUCH better place than he would have been had he not been able to recognise these things about himself. At this point in his race report, he admits to me that he feels he is actually ready to race.
Ready to race and entering the water like.....
Queue for water entry – good craic from marshal – get into water – get goggles and face wet to try and equal temperature and get goggles on and sealed – pull swim cap over goggle top.
Make sure wetsuit sleeve is over watch strap – check (not to self: security of watch hindered effort of left hand – must make strap more secure) -
or take it off! - Coach Sorrel
Water acclimatisation time – face in breathe out through nose – repeat until confident to breathe out fully – cold water inhibits that ability – cold water in nose initiates a panic reflex – got to breathe out and avoid water ingress to nose.
Sink downs – do sink downs in water – increase confidence in wetsuit flotation and breathing out.
Bit of craic with neighbours – star fish floats to make space – watching race marshal who counts down to start hooter with fingers – Hooter
Three rules – don’t go off too quick – don’t go off to quick AND don’t go off too quick
Lets get a routine – 10 strokes – sight – adjust – 10 strokes - sight - adjust – repeat
Still OK – not feeling too left behind – the occasional foot tickle – no significant bashing
Bit of bashing at first and second turns – started to get a little tired on final straight – but more bashing as fast peeps from wave behind went through – still OK – but had to think about it a bit to maintain karma – but largely did – got thrown off rhythm a bit and had to stop once to refocus and spot the finish chute (noted a yellow canoe beside yellow finish chute (grr), but then thought - canoes come in a limited range of colours, as do bouys and other floating water sport things), so focused and ignored increased collisions as neared the exit.
Coach Sorrel - This is huge step number one. In previous races, this negative thought would have had a direct impact on the rest of Tim's race - instead of being cross that there was an obstacle that he could have swum into, and having the negative emotion floating round his head, he pushed this to one side, rationalised it, added a bit of 'so what' and carried on.
Jogged to T1 – feet hurt on tarmac – ran on painted yellow lines instead – much better.
Coach Sorrel - this is huge step number two! Rational decision making during the race...focused but enough for Tim to make the right decision. So much so that he even turn round and helped the person behind him by pointing out the smoother bit of path to run on.
and then bike top on – helmet on – unrack bike and trot out of T1. Cross the mount line and then trot to further on – no point in stopping in the middle when there are folk wobbling about in front of you and others coming up behind – trotted to a nice clear bit at the side 10m past mount line and got on the bike.
Coach Sorrel - this is something we practice a lot on our training holidays, remaining calm in transition will assist you out onto your bike without any additional adrenaline caused from panicking!
All going according to plan (note: I have a plan!), earned a rebuke from a cyclist behind me for going too slowly through an aid station – ‘watch out I’m right behind you’ was the cry – I did not respond with ‘that’s your FFFlaming lookout’ I just thought in my head 'it’s her problem not mine – she should practice some bike handling skills' remained focused and get back on it.
Coach Sorrel - again, mindfulness playing a part here, I know Tim won't mind me saying that in previous years this would have turned into an altercation and would have negatively impacted on his (and her!) race.
Finished bike in good shape.
Fairly straight forward, very slow jog through transition and out onto run course.
Very slow jog to first aid station and purposefully walked the aid station as planned; take a drink then reach up high – walk on tiptoes – stretch – slowly increase from walk to jog and let a natural rhythm evolve – don’t force it - good upright stance – short strides – feet under hips – elbows bent – let the arms dictate the leg rate – same cadence throughout change gear where needed by maintaining cadence and adjusting stride.
Repeat aid station routine at every aid station – walk stretch start to build again.
Looking relaxed on the run
Was surprised and a bit disheartened that there were so many people fading around me – most looked way less fit than I feel that I am – so why were they ahead of me and why am I only just going past them now? No matter I am going past them now AND they look totally finished – I feel fresh as a daisy.
Coach Sorrel - this is great feedback, it's easy to get into the habit of looking at the negatives as to why and how so many people are ahead of you....but focusing on your own plan and not what everyone else is doing is the key here. Plus, you're passing them and the aim is to get to the finish line as quickly as YOU can.
Note to self tri suit zip rubs chest and causes sore – it always does – Why the hell have I not done something about this in advance?
Coach Sorrel - reflecting on a race properly like this identifies small things that need to be changed for the next race so that you don't have that moment when you think 'oh yes, this is the trisuit that rubs, I wish I had done something about that!'
It's worth pointing out that this was one of the best races Tim has had - in terms of holding it all together and (in his words) 'having a jolly old time'. We think that says it all!
By properly evaluating a race, you can see where you have made good decisions or made poor decisions and work on these before your next race. Hopefully the above will give you an insight into the difference this can make in a race (or training environment) and encourage you to work on your mental game as well as your physical game.
Tim was asked to think of two things that went well that he would look to repeat, and two things that he would look to change - there are lots of positives in the above report to choose the two good things (having a plan being one!), I truly hope the trisuit zip issue is in the two things to improve!